Our Global Economic Opportunity Circle just wrapped up a year of engagement with La Cocina, an innovative nonprofit incubator for food entrepreneurs like Elvia Buendia of La Luna Cupcakes (her daughter Arai Zuemy Buendia is pictured at right).
La Cocina requested Full Circle Fund's strategic help to increase the number of businesses that graduate within an identified time frame, raise the number of new participants accepted into the program, and help participants access growth capital. These enhancements will allow the nonprofit to become a model incubator kitchen, laying the groundwork for scaling the organization locally and replicating in other geographic areas.
Full Circle Fund's team, led by Amanda Levinson and David Greco, broke up into sub-groups to conduct research and make recommendations. One team examined the program participants' need for and barriers to accessing capital. They helped form new partnerships with Opportunity Fund, and the crowd-sourced funding platform Kickstarter.
You can check out how Kickstarter works (and more importantly, help an entrepreneur her reach her goal by January 21!) by viewing Alicia Villanueva's Tamales Los Mayas Project or clicking on the widget to the right.
Another sub-team focused on program structure and strengthening the graduation curriculum by addressing barriers and disincentives to success. Examples of their suggestions include implementing more specific goals and clear consequences for participants if they miss targets, and utilizing a dashboard of basic business metrics. A final sub-team looked closely at developing partnerships with other organizations to scale impact and continue building brand identity, while protecting La Cocina’s unique niche.
Said Executive Director Caleb Zigas, "Full Circle Fund's team really brought not just their financial support but also their minds to the project at hand. For an organization as small as ours, the impact of so many minds working so fast and so invested in the outcomes was tremendous."
He continued, "In what felt like a very short time, we were able to reconsider many of the fundamental aspects of our program and make adjustments that made our programming better and delivery stronger. In bringing all of these people to our table, Full Circle Fund really gave us a unique opportunity to brainstorm and implement in a way that we never had before. The result was significant and immediate change, and the results are evident in our program today."
Ultimately the project will to enable La Cocina to launch more successfully-graduated businesses, enable businesses to move through program more quickly and allow the organization to handle more businesses in the program overall. The team's findings will also support better allocation of staff and volunteer resources, and ensure that La Cocina will have reliable partnerships moving forward.